US anti-affirmative action group drops lawsuit after law firm changes fellowship criteria News
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US anti-affirmative action group drops lawsuit after law firm changes fellowship criteria

The American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), a group founded by prominent anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, agreed on Wednesday to drop their lawsuit challenging law firm Perkins Cole’s diversity fellowship program. AAER moved to drop the suit after Perkins Cole announced changes to their fellowship program that would welcome applications from all students instead of only students from marginalized communities.

AAER sued Perkins Cole over the fellowship program’s requirement that applicants be “members of a group historically underrepresented in the legal profession,” including people of color and LGBTQ+ people. They argued that providing opportunities to only these students discriminated on the basis of race, violating the US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and running afoul of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard, which effectively prohibited the consideration of race in college admissions.

Perkins Cole announced the changes to its program last week, maintaining that they remain dedicated to cultivating a diverse workforce and providing opportunities to people from diverse backgrounds. “Our new Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Program continues Perkins Coie’s long-standing and deep-rooted commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our firm and across the legal profession,” said Genhi Givings Bailey, Perkins Cole’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We are proud of our firm’s progress and even as the legal landscape evolves, our commitment to strengthening diversity and creating a more inclusive workplace remains steadfast.”

The changes come months after the US Supreme Court rendered its decision in Students for Fair Admission. Since then, anti-affirmative action groups like AAER have targeted private diversity programs, arguing they are unconstitutional. Some courts have been receptive to this argument, with one court recently blocking a grant program for Black-women-owned businesses.